Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sakura and Sweets

Last year around this time I received a package from Ru in Japan filled with treats. Of course Tashi had to check it out. Thanks again Ru!

I made sure to save one for something special.

 Hanami time in Portland!

Got lucky with good weather and not too many people under the sakura trees.

A special sweet from the Meiji 100% Chocolate Cafe in Tokyo!

I believe this was a limited sakura white chocolate. Lovely packaging and white and pink swirls in the chocolate. I remember the taste being sweet and delicate.

So happy hanami time to everyone from the Portland Waterfront since the sakura is now blooming in Japan.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grimm Night at Helvetia Tavern

I have a Grimm location post. Actually two Grimm locations! I haven't done one of these in a while. But this one was easy since I'm familiar with both places. So when John Platt, owner of Helvetia Winery said that Grimm was remodeling his house for a week it was pretty obvious that a Grimm viewing party would be needed.

Sure enough one was held last week for us locals to watch Grimm episode "Bad Luck". John explained what went on during filming at the winery to the many people who filled up the outdoor patio at what just happens to be another Grimm location.

Helvetia Tavern!  I did a post about Helvetia Tavern back in 2013 which you can read here if you want. I'm not sure if they always show Grimm when it airs but they did last week. Inside we were sitting at the pool table watching under all those hats.

I enjoyed a glass of Helvetia Winery's 2013 pinot noir with a harvest burger and onion rings. The wine and rings were good, the burger was average. Watching the show with people who enjoy it was fun.

I've been meaning to do a post about Helvetia Winery for some time. At least for now I can share a photo of the house that is where the tastings are done and was the house used for the first part of the show. It looks a bit different inside from what was in the show but John said that he did keep the painting they did inside and the curtains.


Helvetia Winery is in beautiful farm land in Helvetia just north of the 26 freeway. Nearby is Helvetia Lavender Farm and Pacific Crest Alpaca Farm which you pass by on the drive to the winery. Also used by the Grimm crew was the Helvetia Christmas Tree Farm which is part of the lavender farm. This is just a hop, skip and a jump from the winery front door and is where poor Peter met his end.

If you decide to go to the winery you should have better luck than Peter. Not only is there wine to taste and buy but often there are events that happen and sometimes even local salmon for sale. Here's Helvetia Winery's website and they do have an email newsletter also. Along with that they were one of the first winery's in Oregon to offer bouteille fills which means less wine bottles being used. I know I've enjoyed my visits there and need to get back soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Rite of Spring Comes to Nodoguro

Last spring Chef Ryan Roadhouse started Nodoguro as a pop-up. It's a year later, Nodoguro has a set location and Team Nodoguro is once again celebrating spring with the new them The Rite of Spring.

The darker decor of Twin Peaks has been replaced with growing plants and blooms.

Really big blooms. Along with a glowing cloud and blue crystals suspended across the ceiling like rain drops, bringing the outdoors inside.

Along with art work by Elena's father Alexander Kornienko and these creative pieces by Kim Hamblin.

Definitely a feeling of spring in the room.

The new menu is reflective of the theme with Chef Ryan not only adding touches of spring but also hints of Russian fare since The Rite of Spring is a famous ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky and the original choreographer was Vaslav Nijinsky, both who were Russian. Adding to this was lovely classical music playing including The Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsy.

Wine and sake were available by the glass and also ginger beer. Kurosawa Junmai Kimoto sake, Johan Vineyards Nils Reserve Pinot Noir 2007, Fossil and Fawn Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 and Katana sake were just some of the offerings. A four glass food pairing was available.

First up was this beautiful translucent Kelp Pressed Flounder Sashimi dusted with Sakura salt and bathed in Winter Citrus. The delicate flowers on top are currant blossoms. This really was lovely to see in person.

What looked like an average bowl of Young Bamboo and Wakame in Dashi really was much more. Loaded with umami from both the dashi and shaved ham it was topped with little prickly ash fronds.

This was followed by Seared Bonito topped with Cured Egg, Young Garlic and Water Pepper Blossoms. The fish looked like it was dancing on the plate. The taste of the bonito reminded me of really good katsuobushi. Knowing this must be higher quality bonito than what one normally gets at restaurants might not be what diners are use to but this is what the good stuff tastes like. I found the Johan Vineyard Pinot Noir went well with these umami filled dishes.

I couldn't help but try to take photos of the flowers blooming while waiting between dishes. Elena Roadhouse once again created a lovely visualization of the theme. Really wish more pop-up and set menu small seatings would get into this. It adds so much to the dining experience.

I jokingly called the next serving The Foraged Dish because it really was made of various local plants. A Nettle and Pickled Ginger Salad graced with Oregon Grape Blossoms. To me it reminded me of spring just starting to come out of dark winter time.

This might not look like the Beef Tongue with Hazelnuts and Wasabi dish. Because it's not. It's nice to know that if you do need a minor substitution that Chef Ryan is in most cases happy to accommodate. Personally I don't eat beef if at all possible. So I ended up with the same dish except for some very nice clams from Washington. This was a lovely dish with great flavor from the broth.

More dancing fish, this time Sesame Sable Fish with Cherry Blossom Jam and Breakfast Radishes. The jam was delicious and reminded me of miso that is usually plated with sable fish. But no miso in this. The cherry blossoms Chef Ryan used for the dinner he obtained locally himself. Another lovely dish and the Katana sake was really nice with this.

Getting towards the end and what was the masterpiece of the meal. Mackeral Steak with Aged Miso, Crispy Ginger, Grilled Chive and lots of blossoms including currant and Oregon grape. Chef Ryan carefully removed all the bones from the mackeral, reformed the steaks and then cooked it at a very low temperature to come up with what was the best tasting mackeral I have ever eaten. I can't help but imagine a young girl with her hair covered with flowers as part of a spring festival. Really amazing dish.

But it was not over yet. For next was a bowl of local Smoked Salmon mixed with Spring Vegetable Rice. I didn't catch everything that was in this bowl but if I heard right there was sea beans, cypress, bamboo, shiso and of course prickly ash. Topping this was some of Chef Ryan's really good marinaded ikura and a little wasabi. I mixed this all up really well and it was a joy to eat with the ikura creating delicious little surprises along with all the other great flavors. If you eat this definitely stir it up because it makes it even better.

Pretty much know it's near the end of the feast when Chef Ryan's yummy Tamagoyaki is placed in front of you. But it was not over yet.

Just a shot of Chef Ryan Roadhouse plating up one final dish with Sou Chef Mark Wooten working in the back ground. And yes some of the produce was provided by Mark Wooten's Phantom Rabbit Farm. Sounds like it will be a really good year for the farm. I am hoping to get to one of the farm dinners this summer.

Finally here is what Chef Ryan was plating up. An ode to Russian Tea Cakes which was followed by black tea. Definitely one of the most creative desserts it was soy milk with koji which was made into a type of farmer's cheese. The taste was similar to cheese cake but not as sour. It topped a crumble made with sunflower flour if I remember correctly. Matcha dusted the top along with a couple anise flavored mint leaves from Phantom Rabbit Farms. Encircling this all was a honey tasting syrup that Mark said was birch syrup. Pretty amazing dessert.

Another stupendous dinner from the Nodoguro team. Really feels like Chef Ryan is feeling more comfortable with what he is doing and stretching further with even more creative and delicious meals. Once again I was sad when it was over because I would love to eat many of these dishes again. I guess that's the downfall of enjoying great food.

There are still a few seats available and always a possibility that more nights could be added. And of course new themes and dining experiences to come. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chef Doug Adams Brings Texas to Lardo

 I made a stop last week at one of Portland's favorite sandwich shops. Trying to get back to my more pescetarian eating ways I was glad to see not only was Lardo's latest Chefwich was fish but even better it was created by Chef Doug Adams of The Imperial and recent Top Chef contestant where he showed he has the chops as an excellent chef.

 Even though Lardo's theme is pig, they do have more than pork. Their menu includes tuna melts, chickpea burgers and different salads plus fries and onion rings that smelled so good I wish I had ordered some.

 Being in Portland it's almost not official unless a place serves beer. I decided on their Lardo Lager by Breakside Brewing since they didn't have that delicious Double Mountain Yacht Rock on tap. One day I will get up to Breakside. For now this was a rather mellow ale which would be good with the lighter fare. I enjoyed sipping it with great blues music in the background. Brought a feeling of being in the South.

As for the sandwich, I was looking forward to it. Fried Catfish, Jacobsen Salt & Bee local smoked honey butter, crystal mayo, bread and butter pickles made up this po'boy.   It's been a long time since I had decently cooked catfish. This was a very interesting sandwich. The catfish was tender and tasty and the bread was fresh. I didn't expect it to be as spicy as it was and I should have asked for the sauce on the side. Other than that I enjoyed it and the sweet honey butter on the bottom was a nice surprise. I will have to try adding that to sandwiches in the future. All in all I think it's an inspired creation from Chef Doug Adams. If you like spicy food go for it and if you aren't into spicy see if they will put the sauce on the side since I think it's just as good with just a little sauce.

Lardo's has three locations and you can find their information at their website here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Portland Dining Month Dinner at Departure

A little late with this but Portland's Dining Month is not over with yet. I had the good fortune of my favorite dining companion visiting me so we went to Departure to see what Chef Gourdet dreamed up for the month. I stared with an Indochine mixed drink which includes Grey Goose Aa Poire vodka, Clear Creek pear brandy, lime, blackberry, and prosecco.

One of the nice things about Departure's Dining Month menu is there were two choices in each of the three courses and they were not regular menu items. So we tried everything except for dessert because we both wanted that Chocolate Curry Tart.

Even though we were told everything would come out when it was done and not held, the pacing of the dishes was great. First up was the Green Papaya and Shrimp dish. I would say this was a salad which was flavored with bright mango, mint, chili with peanuts sprinkled over it. Lots of sweet with a little tart and spice. Really great dish to start with.

I've been wanting to try the dumplings so we ordered the Chicken and Mushroom Dumplings too.

Inside the steamer were three delicious dumplings seasoned with chili and Thai basil and topped with crispy shallot. Also a very enjoyable dish.

First dish of the second course arrives and it's the Chicken Tonkatsu. Nice cripsy outside, tender chicken inside. Underneath were tasty sweet vinegar potatoes and an amazing lemony sauce that brought back memories of the Avgolemono Seafood Chowder that I had at their Compass Dinner. That dish was the best thing I have ever eaten at Departure and so I really enjoyed tasting that same flavor with the Chicken Tonkatsu. If there had been less chili pepper sprinkled over this it probably would have been my favorite dish of the night.

Second dish of the second course was the Stir Fried Rockfish. Really appetizing, this was my companion's favorite dish. With the Rockfish was cabbage, jicama, shitake mushrooms and chives.

Finally we each had the Chocolate Curry Tart with Banana Sorbet. I believe that was a coconut milk crumble topping it and olive oil was drizzled over it. This was my favorite dish and I love the creative desserts that Chef Gourdet creates without using processed foods or dairy.

I think this was a really nice menu that was put together for Dining Month and it was fun to be able to share too. I'm glad we tried it. If you go you might get lucky because they have been opening the decks when the weather is good.

Departure is located at Departure Restaurant is located at 525 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97204

Now I just have to get to a couple more places before the month is up.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the 13th Black Cat Bakery in LA

Being Friday the 13th makes it a good time to remember the neat little Black Cat Bakery on Fairfax in Los Angeles. I had wanted to go for some time and finally did after visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back in 2011.

I enjoyed their tuna melt sandwich with potato salad and a dill pickle.

And a delicious brownie. Sorry about the dark photos. It was evening and I was not able to go back since they were a bit out of the way for me and are no longer open. I did enjoy my visit and their food.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Sunday Brunch at Azteca

One Sunday back in 2012 I was feeling a bit alone so I went for a drive. Saw a sign at Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Beaverton for brunch so I decided to try it. From what I remember it was a line of serve yourself buffet tables. Some of the items were familiar, some were a bit mysterious and some had been sitting out for a bit. Brunch included champagne.

At the end I was still feeling a bit alone and not so great even though some of the items were not bad tasting.

So I have not gone back. Azteca does seem to have a following but I see even now some reviewers are not happy with the food or service and there seems to be a theme of inconsistency. What would make me come back? Perhaps a bit of quality control is needed. Plus no Ranch sauce on fish tacos or green peppers in most of the dishes. It makes me think they want to hide the taste of the other ingredients.

Anyway, the reason I have started writing posts about some of the places I haven't had good experiences at is as a record for myself. Plus maybe some day one of the people running a place like this will read it and consider making positive changes.